4 Ways This Functional Medicine Doctor Worked To Rebuild Her Gut Health After Taking Antibiotics
Almost exactly four hours after eating leftover sushi one Saturday night, I found myself with an awful case of diarrhea. By Sunday evening, it progressed to be full-on bloody and frequent, with pain throughout my abdomen.
Concerned, I went to my local ER. After a CT scan showing that my entire colon was inflamed, and my appendix was normal, I was passed off to gastroenterology. By Monday afternoon was prepped for an emergency colonoscopy.
After the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me she thought I had C. difficile (or Clostridium difficile) colitis, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea and colon inflammation. I promptly started on my first antibiotic.
Fast-forward three days, and I'd received IV hydration at home, seen the osteopath, and was still having bloody diarrhea and pain. Then, I got started on two different antibiotics. Thankfully, these did the trick, and the blood stopped within two days, and the diarrhea within three.
While grateful for the remedy, I also knew that research suggests taking antibiotics can alter the human microbiome. I imagined my gut to be a newly blank slate, like a newborn's, and decided that the most important thing at that point was to focus on rebuilding my strength and crafting a healthy, balanced microbiome. Using my experience as a functional medicine doctor, here are the measures I chose to take to help support my gut:
1. I took things slow.
After a serious illness, it can take weeks for energy stores and vitality to recover. As I was allowing my gut to recover, I didn't rush back into exercise or put too much strain on my body as a whole. For anyone getting back into fitness after a similar situation as mine, I'd recommend starting with about half the workout intensity for half the time you're used to, until you feel your strength returning.
2. I built up healthy gut flora with probiotics.
Four targeted strains to beat bloating and support gut health.*
Most antibiotics unfortunately take a scorched-earth approach and can wipe out a number of the good bacteria that live inside your gut—also known as probiotics. The impact of a serious illness like the flu can also take a significant toll on your microbiome. To help rebuild a healthy gut, try taking a probiotics supplement, which can aid in replenishing the good bacteria in your microbiome.*
I also prioritized more fermented or cultured foods with natural probiotics into my diet. One of my personal favorites is unsweetened yogurt or nondairy yogurt (my go-to is from Coconut Cult) twice a day.
3. I advanced my diet strategically.
While being mindful about which foods I was putting into my body to support my gut, I also took into account how I was nourishing myself. Your stomach muscle isn't as used to being expanded after being sick. To accommodate for this, I focused on limiting my portion sizes, chewing food completely, and eating slowly. I also made sure to stop eating when I felt full, to avoid overtaxing my system.
4. I tried supportive treatments.
Recovery can feel challenging. Just remember an illness doesn't define you. You were strong, and you'll be strong again. Take it one day at a time, and be patient with your recovery. Seize this as an opportunity to nourish and replenish your gut in the best way possible.